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Wide Array of Stores Now Sell High-Calorie Snacks

They're at checkout counters of clothing stores, gas stations -- and adding to obesity epidemic, study says

THURSDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- If you're hungry while shopping for a new sofa, don't despair: 22 percent of U.S. furniture stores now sell sweet or salty snacks, a new report finds.

In fact, the sale of high-calorie snack foods has moved far beyond grocery stores to hit most segments of the retail market, say the authors of the study published online Dec. 17 in the American Journal of Public Health. The easy availability of snack items might be contributing to America's obesity epidemic, the researchers said.

A team from Tulane University School of Public Health in New Orleans examined the availability of candy, salty snacks and sweetened drinks at retail outlets that did not sell food as their primary merchandise.

The researchers found snack food for sale in 41 percent of such stores. Candy was the most frequently sold item (in 33 percent), followed by sugary drinks (20 percent) and salty snacks (17 percent). Most often, high-calories products were found temptingly close to the checkout line, the study added.

Snack foods were found in nearly all pharmacies (96 percent), most gas stations (94 percent), more than a fifth (22 percent) of furniture stores, 16 percent of clothing stores and 29 to 65 percent of other non-food stores.

"The obesity epidemic in the United States is estimated to be responsible for more than 100,000 deaths per year, 20 times the estimated 5,000 deaths from food-borne infectious pathogens," the researchers wrote. "This epidemic should prompt public health experts to evaluate the contribution of the widespread availability of energy-dense snack foods and beverages to weight gain and to consider ways to address this availability."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on obesity.

-- E.J. Mundell

SOURCE: Dec. 17, 2009, news release, American Public Health Association

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